Pros and Cons of photoshopping — Kim Kardashian Before/After photo via a photo retouching demo by Eric Kee and Hany Farid from Dartmouth College.
Warning: This photo has been digitally retouched.
Hi, should photos in advertisements be labeled that they have been digitally retouched?
I recently read an interesting article about two computer scientists from Dartmouth, who have written a tool (and developed a metric) to measure how much a photo has been retouched.
They do it by comparing the final to the original photo and proposed a scale from 1 (slightly retouched) to 5 (drastically retouched).
To demonstrate their results, they have set up the following informative Web page showing celebrities BEFORE and AFTER being photoshopped. By clicking on the Toggle button you can switch between the BEFORE / AFTER view and see what has been done to the photos. Notice also how the anatomy/geometry has been changed to make parts of the body smaller/larger.
Inspired by the discussion their work triggered, I have thought about the Pros and Cons of photoshopping and possible solutions to the dilemma, to photoshop or not to photoshop?
Just to be clear, I use "to photoshop" here as a general term and synonym for "to retouch a photo" by the means of any photo processing program. (I personally use PaintShop Pro but I like the term anyway.)
- Photoshopping is art.
- Aesthetically pleasing pictures are nice to look at.
- It can make crappy, underexposed photos useful.
- Removing blemishes, wrinkles and flabs is flattering.
- Editing photos is fun.
- Portraits, sculptures and paintings of human beings have always been and will be idealized for the good or bad.
- Photoshopping is a lie.
- It creates a false and unrealistic body image.
- Seeing only perfect models on drastically retouched pictures can lower one's self-esteem, cause eating disorders and build unnecessary pressure to conform to the advertised ideals.
- Advertising makes use of retouching and editing to manipulate our perception and desire.
- Editing is tedious and time consuming.
Possible Solutions for the Photoshop Dilemma
To photoshop or not to photoshop?
Mandatory labeling of retouched photos in magazines/advertisements
Since all photos are digitally processed nowadays a warning label such as "This photo has been digitally processed." is sort of useless. As proposed in the article an improved labeling system would include the degree of how much a photo has been altered. But then again, I am not a fan of such labels and I think it is not the real solution. If an ad is not truthful enough and entirely fakes the look of a product it should not be allowed in the first place.
Educate yourself and others
Best way is to tell people that practically all photos (and movies) are retouched nowadays. I think a lot of young and tech-savvy folks know this already. In times of the iPhone, Instagram & Co. and the fact that every smartphone has a decent camera (not just the iPhone), it has never been easier to make good looking photos.
Develop a critical eye what has been done to a photo. Compare product pictures to the real product to see the difference. Models too, while pretty, are not that perfect as they look on their photos. Remind yourself every day that you are beautiful and like yourself such as you are!
Defeat the system on its own ground
Angelina Jolie does it, Georgy Clooney does it, so why not doing it as well? Simply make great pics of yourself too! Ask a good friend or a professional photographer. Joining a photography class or starting your own fashion blog can help too ;) Learn at least one serious photo editing program, such as GIMP, Photoshop (Elements) or Corel PaintShop Pro.
Keep the photoshopping reasonable
The title says it already, I prefer the more natural look, but also love to tone and slightly edit my pictures. Be creative, play around, but try to not overdo it.
Don't bother too much
Last but not least, don't bother too much about the glossy photos of others. All that glitters is not gold. Be confident and develop your own (photo) style!
A Perceptual Metric for Photo Retouching
Demo Web page
Photo Retouching Demo by Eric Kee and Hany Farid
Eric Kee and Hany Farid. A Perceptual Metric for Photo Retouching. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011.